This workshop was an unusual one for me. I did not know who was going to come from the refugee centre. I expected Syrian refugees, Eritrean guys turned up. At the beginning it was hard to communicate and get the workshop going. But once I had given them some paint the atmosphere changed. Everybody was focused and the room became still. Soon the facial expressions turned into happy smiles. It was great to see these grown up men enjoy painting so much after their tiresome journey from Eritrea to Amsterdam.
Despite the language barrier we communicated surprisingly well. It was moving to hear that some participants attached an emotional value to their paintings. Yemane’s painting was a tribute to his faith, note the Eritrean cross in the corner.
Another young man, Bahlbi had seen the town of Afabet, which was destroyed during the civil war, in his painting.
One of the non-refugee participants painting was very simple and stunning. It reminded me of “Two women on the Shore” by Edvard Munch.
Marta has already been trained in art, and has painted a lot. She was very happy to learn how to make natural and toxin-free paint at our workshop. The intuitive way of working was also a pleasing discovery for Marta. She quickly got into the flow and created the “Snail”.
After the painting session, we enjoyed the food that some of us brought. Keiko’s noodles, who’s originally from Japan, impressed the Africans. The Polish Marta on the other hand had chosen to bring hummus which tasted like home for them.
The social aspect of this workshop was very strong. Despite the language barrier and the cultural differences, we were able to understand each other. After this workshop I am even more convinced that artistic expression brings us together. Art is probably more ancient and fundamental to human culture than language.
See when the next workshop with refugees is on the agenda. Thanks to Coffeemania for providing the location for this event!